John Day River smallmouth and catfish tips

O. mykiss
O. mykiss
Hello,
I will be camping at cottonwood canyon state park near the cottonwood bridge on the john day for labor day. I have read the smallmouth are a gimme, but I was wondering if anyone has tips or areas to focus on for quality bass. My son and my nephew also want to catch channel cats and I was wondering if anyone can offer up some help. I’ve caught them in the snake but never fished for them in the John Day. Thanks for any help!
 
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Irishrover
Irishrover
I guessing you meant Labor Day. I was there a couple of times last year. Fished for bass with the fly rod and had good sucess. Easy area to fish, lots of bank access from the trail along the river both above and below the bridge. I have never tried for catfish on the John Day either. Good luck!
 
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portlandrain
portlandrain
My experience there is that you can catch 100 bass in a day without much skill. If it's soft plastic in any variety, they'll eat it. The bigger ones would probably come down to luck and not having a dink get to your bait first. As I understand, spring is the time for bigger fish when the water is still high. My best there was probably 12 inches, which felt big after a dink fest. Super fun though!
 
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plumbertom
plumbertom
O. mykiss said:
Hello,
I will be camping at cottonwood canyon state park near the cottonwood bridge on the john day for labor day. I have read the smallmouth are a gimme, but I was wondering if anyone has tips or areas to focus on for quality bass. My son and my nephew also want to catch channel cats and I was wondering if anyone can offer up some help. I’ve caught them in the snake but never fished for them in the John Day. Thanks for any help!
I've only fished the John Day River below the narrows for catfish. So I can't offer any meaningful help unless you want general channel catfish tips. I seldom actually target bass.
Not to try and hijack your thread, but I would like some general information about that area of the river.
First and foremost, I'd like to know how navigable that river is. I have a 16' jon boat with a 25 hp. that I'd want to be able to use as my mobility tends to limit my walking much to fish. So does the river generally keep a three foot or deeper channel?
Second, is there reasonable crappie fishing there?
And third, just how good is the channel catfishing in that area?
I found the lower river to be quite productive for cats when I fished it.
 
Irishrover
Irishrover
So does the river generally keep a three foot or deeper channel?

No, the upper river above Cottonwood has plenty of sallow rapids and the water level varies a lot seasonally. I've found the river bottom up there to have a lot of gravel and rocks in it. The catfishing is best in the lower river below the narrows and accessed from La Page Stae Park.

The John Day above Cottonwood is a great float show. Rubber rafts and such made the drift from many upriver spots like Twickingham, Clarno, and Spray. For overnight drifts there is a permit system.

The John Day River Drift and Historic Guide by Arthur Campbell published by Frank Amato is a great book about the river.

For power boats the lower river is the place to be just watch the wind.
 
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D
DG1959
Have done very well just below narrows. Watch very close for rattlers on both sides of river.
LEAVE all Native American artifacts alone.
 
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O. mykiss
O. mykiss
We just got back from a great trip camping along the John day. We caught lots of fish, none over 1 lb. The wind blew a solid 30 mph in the afternoons and made fishing pretty difficult. The scenery was amazing and we will go back for a float trip next time!
 
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D
DonF
There are channel cats in the John Day. Have got all of mine at Clarno but if they are there I suspect they are everywhere. I have fished some below the falls in the lower river but have never caught a channel there, only bull heads. But then I like bull heads too. Have never heard of crappie in the John Day other than below the falls in the lower river. Then again I've never heard of then down there either but I did get a pretty nice one fishing for bass one time. It was only the second I'd ever caught and I have never gone looking for them there. Maybe should do it next spring. Years ago running up to the falls was pretty easy but tried it a couple years ago and found lots of shallow water up above the boat camp ground. Oh yea, on channels there, I've seen photo's a number of times of guys coming out with nice stringer's of cats. Love those channel cats! Everything I read say's go up near the falls for channels but they have to be down lower also, only way they can get to the falls!
 
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D
DonF
I was thinking a bit ago. My first trip to the John day fishing was to Cottonwood Bridge many years ago. Wasn't much of a camp ground there them. Took myself and my son and we caught a lot of fish, all bass. Nothing by the campground but walked both ways from there. Was also rattlesnakes. I was on the bank across the iver where the campground is now and my son hollored at me not to move. he heard one oner by me. Sure enough there was one there! hearing going south at my age and I can't hear the damn things. haven't done a lot of smallmouth fishing since discouvering channel cats but might have to go try Cottonwood bridge again next fall. Used to get a lot of chukar on the hill on the east side of the river years ago, that's how I found the bridge!
 
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